Film program gives Stevenson student videographer the skills to build a portfolio that includes weddings


Photo courtesy Zhanna Snyder

Camera, tripod, stabilizer, SD cards, lenses, microphones… everything 20-year-old Zhanna Snyder needs is packed in her backpack. She double checks just to be sure, though, because everything must be perfect for such a big day. She walks down the stairs from her third-floor college apartment and opens the door, met with the warm, breezy October air – perfect weather for a wedding.

Outside, 19-year-old Tina Spurgeon, who is assisting her in filming the wedding, is waiting for her. Both being talented film majors at Stevenson University, they are well-equipped for the task ahead of them. However, that does not get rid of the nerves that the two are feeling.

Zhanna has been making videos since her brother gifted her a small camcorder when she was young. She filmed nearly everything she did, and by the time she made it to college and had to decide what to do with her life, there was no question that she wanted to be behind a camera.

“I noticed that I had all these hobbies and I filmed all of them, like I did magic for a phase, soccer, basketball, exploring, RipStik, but I’d always film it. So then I just figured, I am filming these things, I wonder if film is what I actually like to do,” Zhanna said.

Now, halfway into her junior year, she has filmed and edited a wedding video, worked on a promotional video for the Baltimore Ravens, and participated in an internship with a production company, all while working on film-related projects for her classes.

When she received an email during her sophomore year that a former Stevenson student was looking for someone to record and edit a video for her wedding, she decided to reach out and apply for it. Because of all of the experience Zhanna already had from being a film major, she had the resources to compile a resume and a reel to send to the bride, who liked what she saw and hired her.

However, Zhanna realized that in order to get all of the angles of the wedding and film to the best of her ability, she would need help.

“I wanted an extra hand, but then I was talking to Tina a lot and she was giving me good ideas,” Zhanna said. “She is good with the camera. We are visually in synch.”

After putting lots of thought into it, Zhanna concluded that she wanted to work with her close friend Tina, a fellow film major.

“At the beginning when we got the email from professor Reed about Courtney, the alumni who wanted a videographer for her wedding, I was trying to convince Zhanna and trying to push her to do it because she is so good at cinematography,” Tina said. “Getting to see the process of her applying for it and then getting picked, and then me trying to push her to do it, and her ending up picking me to help her, it is cool how that happened.”

Filming a wedding is not the only real-world experience Zhanna has had in her years at Stevenson. She currently has an internship with DBM Films, a production company located in Towson. One of her tasks is editing feature films by putting foley in them, which is a type of sound effect that filmmakers use.

“What I do is grab sounds from a website, but I have to synch them and put them in the right spot, and we send the edit over to a distributor and then they send us back feedback,” Zhanna said. With the same company, for part of her internship, she also spent two weeks on the set for a movie that will be coming out soon called “Little Heroes.”

Zhanna is currently working on a project for an opportunity that sports fans would envy her for—working with the Baltimore Ravens. This particular project is a promotional video for an award called the Mo Gaba Award.

Mo Gaba was a Baltimore sports fanatic who tragically died of cancer at the age of 14. The award was created in Mo Gaba’s honor and will be given to a kid who is a member of the Ed Block Courage House.

Zhanna is in a group with three other Stevenson Film majors, Bella Beck, Ian Whisner, and Simon Wickwire, who are working on the promotional video together. Zhanna’s role in the filming of the video is cinematographer.

Being involved in so much filming is not always easy, however. At times, Zhanna finds herself having to overcome different obstacles while completing her projects.

“My hard drive not working or taking too long, and that’s editing-wise,” Zhanna said. “On-set-wise, just maybe not getting good enough interviews or wanting to perfect a shot but sometimes that is not possible.”

Despite occasional issues, she is always able to overcome them because of her love for film. Zhanna has big plans for her future after she graduates from Stevenson. Right after graduating she plans to search for a film-related job where she can be hands-on and behind the camera.

“Any job that I can get my foot in the door with,” Zhanna said. “Just not in an office.”

She also has ideas for even further in the future, hoping to someday work with her current college peers.

“Bella, Ian, Simon, and I were thinking about making some kind of production company and doing weddings, corporate stuff, like anything anyone needs,” Zhanna said. “So that’s kind of a dream.”